Saturday, March 7, 2020

"Intemperance of the Left"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Intemperance of the Left”
March 7, 2020

If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
                                                                                    Barack Obama
                                                                                    June 13, 2008
                                                                                    Philadelphia town hall meeting

Just this past week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Spoke outside the Supreme Court to protestors, while the Court was hearing a case that would require doctors in Louisiana who operate at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Senator Schumer, standing on the courthouse steps and speaking to protestors, called out Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh by name, threatening them: “ I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” When called out by others, including Chief Justice John Roberts, some Republican Senators and a few in the media, Senator Schumer claimed to regret his choice of words. Yet everything he says is predetermined and politically motivated. He is not stupid but has had no real-world experience. Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1974, he has spent his entire career (forty-five years) in public service. He parses his words carefully.

This is not to absolve the Right, but vitriol among the sanctimonious left who feel a God-granted right to dictate to “deplorables” and others has become ubiquitous. Progressivism has become a religion in that it claims a moral code of wokeness, political correctness, identity politics, victimization and intolerance, the glue of shared values and mythologies. They clamor for diversity, as long as there is conformity in thought.

Nastiness and incivility have long been present on the political scene and always most venomous during political campaigns. There have always been fringe elements on both sides of the political divide who urge violence and recrimination against those with whom they disagree. However, incivility was generally limited to those on the political stage and to a few commentators whose bigotry is their success. Reporters and the general public were once more restrained in their observations. In our age of better educated citizens who have more free time to think about candidates and politics, unadulterated hatred should have given way to reflection and perspective. It hasn’t. Hatred, on the part of the left, has gone mainstream. Consider a few selections: White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family were asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky by the co-owner, because of her ties to the “inhumane and unethical” Trump Administration. Senior White House Policy Advisor Stephen Miller was accosted in a Washington, D.C. restaurant and called a “real-life fascist.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson was forced to leave another restaurant when fifteen protestors showed up shouting “Shame!” Such acts were encouraged by the establishment. In June 2018, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) told attendees at an event to continue publicly harassing members of President Trump’s Cabinet.

Why? The real reason has to do with the power that comes from political office and the patronage that is its fruit. Certainly, Mr. Trump is an outlier in terms of what we have come to expect in our political leaders. He has been divorced twice, dyes his hair an odd color of orange and speaks in an ill-educated manner. He is brash, coarse and insulting. He is a master at using ridicule to intimidate his opponents. But he does what he promises and has an intuitive sense for an America that has been yanked from the ties that had bound it to its democratic foundations, its history and its culture. He was disruptive at a time when America needed to be disrupted. Government has grown so big that bureaucrats in departments like Justice and the IRS have become impervious to control by elected officials, thus have impeded the democratic process.  

But the origins of this intemperance go back further than Mr. Trump. Christopher Caldwell of the Claremont Institute suggests in his book, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, that our partisan divide, in part, derives from two commissions created under the civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 – an expanded Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The effect was to give more power to the Executive Branch, by relocating decisions – which had once been made by legislators responsible to voters – to unelected bureaucrats. Bureaucratic fiat and judicial decree have replaced legislation, legislation that reflected the collective opinions of opposing party members. For years, Democrats have had a “take no prisoner” attitude toward their Republican opponents. Ronald Reagan was called an “amiable dunce” by Democrat presidential advisor Clark Clifford. In July 1988, at the Democratic National Convention, Texas Treasurer Ann Richardson spoke derisively of Vice President George H. W. Bush: “Poor George, he can’t help it – he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”  Bruce Bawer, writing recently in, claimed that Jon Stewart’s stint on the “Daily Show” (1999-2015) marked a sea-change from Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” (1962-1992). Carson’s show was humorous and pretty much free of political slant. He was never mean or underhanded. Stewart was blatantly left-wing. The 2000 Presidential election, decided by the Supreme Court, was a sore point among Democrats, one they have never forgotten, nor forgiven. Recriminations persisted. George W. Bush was “Dumbo” to some, “Uncurious George” to others, and “Bushitler” to those who hated him. Donald Trump has been called any number of names, from racist, to misogynist to xenophobic. Kathy Griffin held up his ‘severed head’ on television. Calls for his impeachment began before he assumed office. The New York Times Paul Krugman wrote that Trump fears “scary brown people.” Gail Collins, another columnist for the Times, titled an op-ed on Corona Virus, “Trumpvirus.”

The hatred that permeates our politics is pervasive and stems from a culture that separates people into victims and oppressors, one that encourages dependency for political gain. It is a culture that thrives on political correctness, that is “my way or the highway.” It is a culture born in our academies, rarely addressed by our families and thrives on Joseph Goebbels admonition: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” It makes use of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

The question is can (and will) we find our way out of this briar patch. Two-parent households are increasingly rare, especially among lower income families. Church attendance is down. Civic organizations have seen their numbers wane. Schools and universities, claiming diversity, have become uniform in matters of politics. Members of Congress devote substantial portions of their time to fund raising for their next election and less time collaborating with those of the opposite party. Yet, in his recent book A Time to Build, Yuval Levin offers a ray of hope. Mr. Levin argues that it has been these institutions – family, church, civic organization, schools, universities and even Congress – that have gone from molding their constituents according to tried and normalized rules and restraints, to offering themselves as platforms to vent personal views. As to fixing the problem, he argues that first we must acknowledge it exists. Second, we must recognize the positive, character-building aspects of institutions. Only then can we focus on their reconstruction and shun their destructive forces. I hope Mr. Levin is right. We’ll see.

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